Kortext launched a pilot Student Ambassador Programme in partnership with the University of Birmingham library team in March 2021.
The aim of the programme was to improve student onboarding and engagement with the Kortext platform while collecting feedback from the students on their experience.
This allowed us to provide useful feedback to the library and inform our product development team of the student’s wants and needs. Kortext is also keen to support student employability and soft skills which was a great opportunity to make a real difference in this regard.
The University of Birmingham first partnered with Kortext in 2020 to provide over 20,000 students with online textbooks during the Covid-19 pandemic. At the beginning of a new project, universities sometimes struggle to communicate all the resource platforms available to students and staff.
We have found that on other projects, peer-to-peer recommendation has driven usage and wanted to see if actively encouraging this could help improve student visibility of the Kortext project at Birmingham.
Joel Hammond, a first-year Modern Languages student told us how he discovered the platform:
One day, in a breakout room for a translation seminar, a fellow student shared her screen and quickly brought up the study materials. The entire book was ready and available, for free, with the click of a mouse! I made a note of the name and was able to sign up quickly and easily.
The scheme was launched in October 2020 primarily as a result of lockdown measures where students were prevented from attending lectures and studying on campus or from visiting the library. Lauren Senkiw-Smith, second year Chemistry student stated that:
One thing [the university] did really well was making all the resources available to us online.
We set up the programme through the library team, who advertised the post in their newsletter, and selected students across all year groups and subjects to participate in the programme. Lisa Bird, Library Engagement Advisor helped to set up the programme, stating that:
The improved employability prospects for students and feedback on the project could help us to unlock additional funding for the library budget.
As well as driving adoption and usage among students and academics and collecting feedback directly from students on the value of the project, the programme helps to create employment opportunities for students who receive mentoring, work experience and the chance to intern with Kortext, furthermore, helping universities to reach employability targets.
Birmingham’s ‘total students registered’ data shows a continuous and steady increase in students registered to the platform throughout the year, a positive trend.
We also looked at the active student’s data which showed a peak in usage just after Easter; this is not typically seen on other projects and seems to correlate to the programme kick-off as ambassadors had started engaging with their peers via group chats and social media channels just four days prior, suggesting that the programme could increase student engagement by up to 250 per cent!
In regard to feedback, Birmingham project leads have expressed that they see the value in the programme and that student Kortext activity has been high. The student ambassadors have said that they really enjoyed being listened to and gaining experience and insight into the business environment; ‘I was able to network with other students, collaborate on engagement tasks and give constructive feedback to the marketing teams through market research surveys. This helped me to learn more, and made my opinion feel valued.’
At Kortext we have seen the value in the strengthening of university partnerships and feedback on the platform, while the library found ‘the student surveys and focus groups useful and interesting.’
For me, discovering Kortext was completely accidental. The concept of using E-Books for studying had never really crossed my mind before. That was until, one day, in a breakout room for a translation seminar, a fellow student shared her screen and quickly brought up the study materials. The entire book was ready and available, for free, with the click of a mouse! I made a note of the name and was able to sign up quickly and easily.
From there, I downloaded the texts that I needed and began using Kortext whenever I needed to do some reading, write an essay, or prepare for my next lecture. My favourite feature is that I can highlight important information on the page and create notes to go with it. I also really like the search function, as it saves so much time on looking through books page-by-page.
Last spring, I was able to be a part of the Student Ambassador Programme. It was a really positive experience where I was able to network with other students, collaborate on engagement tasks and give constructive feedback to the marketing teams through market research surveys. This helped me to learn more, and made my opinion feel valued. Plus, the 2x £50 ASOS vouchers that we were each given got me a cute jacket, so I can definitely say I gained a lot all-round.
One of the factors that drew me to join their team was their vision of providing essential books to university students, which not only saves them time and money but also provides them with personal access to key academic resources. When I learned that this start-up distributed 20,496 free e-textbooks in business and law schools when it first launched, I was amazed.
If life had been normal, I believe that e-textbooks would have made my life easier as well, as I would have had to carry less and be able to read wherever I want on my iPad. Most importantly, annotation was made easier by the fact that I could do it electronically.
It felt good to know that the law department at the University of Birmingham had the most active users who were fully utilising the Kortext platform. I also enjoyed the group meetings with other Kortext ambassadors, where I learned about their learning platform preferences based on their course of study and how Kortext influenced their online learning. Many people may argue, and I agree, that a job is a job. We should work to live rather than live to work. It is never too late to make a change. It is never too late to try, so take a chance. I took a chance by joining the Kortext, which I believe was worth the effort, and the extra benefits that came with the experience made me feel special.